These are my top five picks for why Napoleon rocks!
The Original Spin Doctor and brilliant PR man – through creation of his own Bulletins, articles for the official press, campaign newspapers, medallions, and selected patronage of the arts, Napoleon was the first modern man to create and publicize the image he wanted portrayed. The effects of this calculated positive public image on events from 1796 onwards cannot be underestimated in contributing to his political and military success.
Ended the French Revolution – after 10 years of civil strife, constant violence, topsy-turvy governments, revolution, counter revolution, counter-counter-revolution, economic instability and general uncertainty, the French people just wanted someone to bring stability to their nation on all these fronts. After the Coup d’Etat of 18 Brumaire, they finally had it. Napoleon Bonaparte.
Significant Civil reforms – in the span of just a few short years he accomplished what some nations take decades (or in some case centuries) to achieve. Complete re-write of the legal code (Code Napoleon), created the Banque de France to restore financial stability, reformed the education system, instituted an extensive program of public works (building roads, bridges and canals, dredging harbours; and beautifying cities, especially Paris), centralized the governmental systems which is still in effect today in France, settled the dispute with the Catholic Church (Concordat)…the list goes on.
Meritocracy – he implemented the ideals of the French Revolution (égalité) by promoting and advancing people from all ranks of society, including nobles. The Légion d’honneur, the first order of merit, admitting men of any class. They were judged not by ancestry or wealth but by military, scientific or artistic prowess.
Sowing the seeds of nationalism – the original purpose of Frances declaration of war in 1792 (War of the First Coalition) was to sow the seeds of a free democratic republic to those neighbouring countries who were mired in there own Ancien Régimes. By implementing reforms (Code Napoleon, reorganizing civil administrations, freeing the Jews, abolishing the discriminatory trade guilds etc.) in those realms where Napoleon had influence, he sowed the first seeds of nationalism that would eventually lead to the decline and fall of the archaic monarchies and the rise of legitimate governments.